September 14, 2009

Health care speech - bump or not?

President Obama's highly anticipated health care speech last week was supposed to give him a bump in approval of the plan trying to work through the House and Senate. He was supposed to have stopped the slide in support for the plan and in fact turn that slide back into a climb. Did it work? That depends on who you ask.
According to the latest Rasmussen numbers not only did it give him a bump for the plan, his own job approval jumped.

Rasmussen's health care polling is summarized by this paragraph;

Fifty-one percent (51%) of all voters nationwide now favor the plan while 46% are opposed. In June, as the public debate was just beginning, 50% favored the plan and 45% were opposed.

Support for the plan fell over the summer and reached a point where 53% of voters opposed it. However, in the days following the president’s speech, support for the plan has been moving up on a fairly consistent basis.

And take a look at these two graphs.
Clearly there's been a change in direction. As much as I'd love to jump ship on Rasmussen because I don't like the numbers, I have faith in what Rasmussen says. He consistently polls in a robust manner and his results should be viewed with respect.

In fact, while the numbers are downright terrible looking, they may be more closely aligned with the truth than the conservatives care to admit. (Stay with me though, there's a very definite pair of silver linings to this).

Firstly, while Rasmussen's results are pretty dependable, outside of the polling and political junkie universes, they won't be as well read as within.

Even if MSNBC were to pick it up and run with it, it would only serve to emboldened the government option crowd and do more harm than good.

That thought is supported by another poll recently released that is likely to get much more press. And as we all know, perception is reality. On the other hand there is Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, who is reporting on some other numbers that show the President's speech did very little. Excerpting from the Washington Post/ABC News poll,

"Bottom line: right now, voters are almost exactly where they were before the speech.

Big question: will praise of Obama’s speech from moderate Dems (Ben Nelson called it a “game-changer” and President’s meeting with 17 Blue Dogs had a positive vibe)
begin to impact public, or will more poll results like this shake the confidence of the Congressional centrists Obama needs?

Big question II: is dropping the public option the game-changer? Olympia Snowe says it’s the only way to get a bill through the Senate, and our poll shows a significant shift in support: from 46-48 to 50-42."
Why would a poll touted by conservatives show movement towards Obama and one run by liberal sources show no change? Methodologies. The WaPo/ABC poll overstates the liberal side of the sample;
"Unfortunately, even with a ridiculous 11-point spread between Democrats and Republicans in the latest poll sample, Obama still can’t get to 50% support on health care leadership..."
Since the poll over sampled Democrats, who are likely more in tune with Obama's agenda, any movement on the issue is going to be smaller because a smaller portion of the survey sample was opposed to his health care plan to begin with. You'd expect to see less movement. If they sampled 80 pro health care Democrats and 2 anti-health care Republicans the speech would be a matter of 4/5ths preaching to the converted. This is a less blatant version of the same thing. It's harder to move the opposed and because you oversampled the in favor crowd, the numbers won't change as much.

But the numbers still haven't reached 50%. That means that moderates and Democratic leaning voters are still unconvinced. On the other hand, Rasmussen numbers are likely more accurate because they try to limit the oversampling. And Rasmussen is showing a shift. According to the Rasmussen numbers the president stopped the health care slide, he stopped the Obama slide and he actually managed a gain. That's the bad news.

I mentioned another silver lining. I watched the speech and I saw tired lines, I saw frustration and I saw some desperation. Why the likely bump? Rasmussen put it best;

Nationally televised appearances by the president have typically provided a bounce in the polls that last for a week or two. In all cases but one, the bounce has been positive for the president.
Bounces by their very nature are temporary. Look at the Obama graphs. You see dips and spikes followed by a return to the normal trend. Did the President affect a bounce? Yes. Was it significant? No. Not unless the vote comes this week, because the trend lines will revert to their normal course.
The real question is whether those normal courses for the approval index and the total approval are slowing down or not. The President has done a lot of damage to his popularity already but the rate of change to his approval is more than likely going to slow down. So if the President thinks he has forestalled the slide for long enough to get something done fast, the speech may have been enough. Fast though, doesn't seem to be a viable reality. Just picture President Obama, a week after giving an "open door" speech cut off debate and demanded a vote. Those gains would evaporate in short order.
Ed Morrissey is right - the speech was not a game changer. But I do think the President afforded himself another quick, but brief bounce. These days however, that isn't going to be enough.

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